Fire & Love
Blue Note Records
In this instance the fervent, acid-washed alto saxophone of grandmaster Jackie McLean encounters six of his keenest pupils, notably including son Rene on tenor. Rene, who has been bringing Mac-brand musical gospel and wisdom to lucky South African students for a number of years, is a welcome addition to the MacBand. Joining them are five of Jackie's post-grad pupils from his mission at the University of Hartford (celebrating its 30th year): trombonist Steve Davis (himself a recording artist to be reckoned with);trumpeter Raymond Williams, the youngest member of the crew; slick pianist Alan Jay Palmer; bassist Phil Bowler; and the precocious young drummer Eric McPherson.
In typical Jackie McLean fashion this outing delivers a fire and passion that is never extinguished, yet is quenched by rich contributions of the MacBand. Produced by J-Mac himself, as always there is a sense of constant quest insistent in the grooves, one of the hallmarks of this ever-restless man whose ardor never diminishes. Jackie McLean in an overly mellow mood would simply be contrary to his character and outlook. This is and has always been a serious pursuit for Jackie and his music reflects that, though there are tender moments and moments of contemplation for sure, the spirit of adventure is never far from his intent. And don't ever get a downbeat impression from McLean's approach, as both the title and spirit of the piece "Optimism" clearly suggests. Fire & Love indeed!